The snake, the witch and the mountain
An extended version
This story first appeared in a short version in the Otaon chapter of book 2, travelling. It was also published in the launch week diary, the nightcap.
A long time ago, a snake was born in the heart of the mountain.
As the snake grew, it explored all the caves, some with smooth others with ragged surfaces, some with small holes other leading into large tunnels, some dry others wet and cool with dripping rocks. And the stream, often quiet but sometimes rushing and bubbling as if something had woken inside it. And the tasty fury things that were so easy to ensnare.
The snake loved every corner, every crack, every drop of wet, every bit of warm surface. And as it matured, it became the guardian of the inner mountain.
One day, a witch got lost in the caves.
For two days the snake watched the witch with curiosity and on the third day, the snake asked the witch what she was doing here.
The witch nearly injured the snake when she danced around her, overjoyed that she would get safely back outside.
‘Oh, dear, dear snake, I will grant you any wish if you guide me through these caves back to the outside world.’
‘What is the outside world?’ the snake asked puzzled, wondering about this strange creature which had been so subdued over the last two days and now burned with the energy of all rocks and waters. And why did the witch do this strange distortion of her face?
‘You can make fun of me,’ the witch said, ‘ when we are outside. But first let us go.’
‘What is go?’
The witch stared at the snake, all her energy evaporated, and she mumbled: ‘You are useless to me.’
‘What is useless?’
The witch shrank back to her subdued self and sat on the floor for a long while. Then she asked the patiently waiting snake. ‘Have you ever seen the blue sky?’
‘I have never heard of such a thing.’
‘The yellow dunes?’
‘I like the sound. What are these creatures.’
The witch gave a long sigh. ‘Can’t we just leave the caves? You must have been outside.’
The snake loved the caves, and it didn’t understand why anyone would want to leave them. And the snake was uncertain about the concept of leaving. It knew that it could pass from cave to cave which meant leaving one cave to enter another, but it was really more about taking care of the other before returning to the previous. And even when the snake left a bite of furry animal, it wasn’t about abandoning the catch, it was about savouring the treat, stretching the experience. What the witch suggested sounded very much like abandonment. Like not coming back.
The witch grimaced and something in her eyes looked like she was in pain about the snake’s wish to stay. Not pain for herself but for the snake’s sake. Which immensely puzzled the snake. It didn’t want any witch to feel bad for it. And why, anyway?
For days, the witch kept to herself, searching the caves, drinking from the streams and stones, nibbling the grasses.
The snake considered talking to the witch again. It seemed only fair to tell her about the rules of the caves, if she intended to become part of it. At the moment, she was clearly making too much noise, talking to herself, sometimes singing in unpleasant frequencies, sometimes making loud snorting kind of noises, and sometimes she emitted water from her eyes. The latter quite fascinated the snake.
One day the snake felt pretty peckish and wondered what a witch tastes like. But after watching her for a while, the snake decided that it preferred plants and fish to a dancing and water shedding witch.
Though sometimes when the witch had retreated deep into the caves, the snake regretting that it had no one to talk to any more. Maybe it would be interesting to know what the blue sky and the outside world were about.
By the accounts of the witch, it didn’t sound like a pleasant place. Apparently there was something called light and heat and many other creatures.
But the next time the witch appeared the snake thought it was better off if it ignored this strange creature.
Some seven turns of the world, after the witch first appeared, the witch looked very miserable and subdued.
But then the witch seemed to have an idea, and seeing the snake, she asked: ‘Would you like to become the greatest snake under the blue sky.’
‘I don’t know. Would I?’
The witch laughed and said: ‘We will see.’
The snake didn’t know what the witch meant, and so it said: ‘If you insist.’
‘Indeed, I do!’
Still smiling kind of madly, the witch started to chant strange words while fixing her eyes on the snake.
Curious, the snake stared back at the witch.
And suddenly the witch started to shrink.
But not just the witch. The cave started to shrink, too.
‘What are you doing with my cave?’ the snake demanded to know, feeling a strange new sensation, like wanting to slide away as quickly as possible. But somehow the snake was transfixed by the witches eyes.
Suddenly, part of the snake’s back touched rock. Cold, comforting rock, but …
The snake tried to turn its head, only to bump it into another part of the rock. And not just any rock, but the rock that was usually high up, way above its head. What was its head doing up there, or here? And why was the witch so tiny by now?
It happened slowly, painfully, and yet powerfully. The snake’s body pressed against the cave walls. Rocks fell all around it. And it couldn’t shake off the sensation that it was itself extending, pressing against the mountain, moving the mountain, breaking the mountain, crushing it one layer after the other until suddenly, the mountain broke and the snake was blinded by a burning whiteness which hit its eyes.
As the snake broke through the mountain, it creating a winding gorge. The witch happily escaped, and many animals found new hiding places among the fallen rocks.
As the white before the snakes eyes slowly retreated, a massive blue space appeared above its head, and all around it lay rocks. In between the rocks grasses shone in a brilliant green.
The snake had trouble to grasp what had happened, and it spent its nights clearing away the rubble in search of its lost caves.
During the day, it often lay awake, wondering what the blue sky was all about, and what it would take to touch it.
And why were the rocks growing?